The world is a small place. It seems huge, but for some reason you can’t always go about your day without unexpectedly running into someone you know. Sometimes this a pleasant random reunion that turns into a cup of coffee to catch up over, other times it devolves into social awkwardness or, if you have a gambling problem, a long avoided beating.
This is the tale of an awkward chance encounter…with our mom and Milk.
In the late high school (and beyond) years, I spent way too much time packed with friends into a 1970’s green Buick Century. It was one of the last model years of classic Detroit land-yachting. We called it “The Pickle.” In one month, we put 2000 miles on it…and never left the county. I believe the route was Jack in the Box to Chevron (gas and smokes) to Rich’s (other smokes), to a lookout point or the beach for smoking and theorizing on the mysteries of the universe, to everybody’s houses for drop off…and repeat. The bench seats and soft suspension made it like riding around in a living room. Then, one day, we left the county.
“Hey man, creepy Rob finally paid me the $150 he owed me,” Jimbo announced. This was a very dangerous thing to volunteer around a bunch of usually broke people who quasi lived in a Buick and had all kinds of bad habits.
“You owe me like all of it for gas,” Mo our driver said. She was dressed in the obligatory flannel/rock shirt combo of the early 90’s.
Jim frowned. “I gave you ten bucks like last week…or some shit. It’s Whiskey’s turn.”
“I don’t get paid til Friday. Anyway, Mr Moneybags, beer is on you!” I replied
“Nope, I’m getting something special with this.” Jim said proudly.
We paused and looked at him. He savored the moment.
“Cocaine?” Shane suggested hopefully.
“Nah man, a sweeeeeet ass glass bong, I heard that the plastic ones give you Alzheimer’s or something.” He beamed. “Now let’s go to Paramount Imports!” (I just checked, its still there doing business!)
“Cool,” Mo said and pointed her Pickle south to San Jose to the mother of all head shops.
We arrived at the store with the usual fanfare…none at all.
We walked inside and admired the layout. I was mesmerized, it was everything material that mattered to me at that point in my life short of fishing tackle. Resplendent on the high shelves and in the glass cases was the fanciest of fancy drug paraphernalia. I swear angels were singing. Surrounding the case were racks of cool as shit T-shirts and black light posters.
I was handling a purple water pipe shaped like a dragon. The clerk clearly appreciated my excellent taste in functional art.
“Duder, check it,’ he said, “the carb is tucked right between the wings.”
“Rad” I said.
Just then Jimbo came over looking weird.
“We should probably get out of here for a minute,” Jim said, weirdly quiet.
“Why?… Dude you should grab this bad boy, the carb is between the wings!”
The clerk nodded.
“Danny?” my mom yelled from across the store. (She doesn’t call me cool self-imposed nicknames in this one).
“Oh crap.” I managed. Followed by a hearty “Oh…hey ma!”
Jim elbowed me in the ribs. “Told you, bro.”
I slowly turned around and there was mom and Milk and me holding a purple dragon bong.
“Hi Whiskey’s mom!” Jim said cheerfully. “I’m going to go try on a T-shirt now, which is definitely what we’re all here for.” He ran off.
“Guess where the carb is!” The clerk said to my mom. He was positive he had a sale at this point…
***MILK here, I’m just gonna hijack this post for a minute.
Roughly the same time but also in a completely different universe, Mom and I were home listening to depressing/empowering female vocalists and reading. We were sprawled comfortably in a cozy living room like normal people…possibly wearing velour jumpsuits, not gonna lie. Mom asked me what I thought Whiskey might like for his birthday.
I considered my brother. Long, blonde hair smashed beneath an old bandana, five-dollar gas station sunglasses, abused leather jacket covered in spikes, and a girlfriend well out of his league. “I dunno,” I rolled my eyes, “what do you get for the juvenile delinquent who has everything? Deodorant?”
Mom sighed. “I could get him a new flannel, but that seems kind of boring.”
That gave me the idea. “You know, there’s this really cool, not at all boring store in a weird part of town. It’s got all kinds of posters and shirts and…just…you kinda gotta see it. I bet we could find something there.”
Things I was thinking of in that moment: The store smells amazing and has the cutest swishy skirts and also this blacklight poster of a tree-woman thing and beaded bracelets and and and…*eyes glaze over with personal wants not at all associated with my brother’s birthday.
Things I was not thinking of: The store is also a stoner mecca filled with “alternative lifestyle” items that might not be necessarily mom friendly.
Also, it was really close to my favorite thrift store. But enough about me, back to Whiskey’s story.
So Mom and I were standing there at the counter, trapped in a vortex of awkwardness. Milk thoroughly enjoyed herself, I’m sure. I set down the dragon mumbling something along the lines of, “cool dragon sculpture, and why does it have holes in it?” and drifted away from the glass “tobacco accessories.” After some awkwardness and me making a big show of buying a Misfits shirt, I finally escaped.
“So what the hell was your mom doing there?” Mo asked.
“Apparently shopping for my birthday gift. Milk told her this was a place full of cool stuff for angry teenagers,” I rolled my eyes.
“Dude, I bet she’s buying you the purple dragon right now!” Jim cracked. “Also if you’re sure she’s gone, can we go back? I still need a new bong and I don’t want her calling my mom.”
I got a Lord of the Rings poster for my birthday. Thanks, Milk.